The place I like to call home here is in the thick of the action at ‘Melrose Arch’, a new neighbourhood and “city within a city” which is bursting with shops, high design and new architecture: this is the face of modern, urban Africa. And while the surrounding commercial scene springs up around it and keeps evolving, one thing stays the same for Sheira and I - this hotel which we have revisited for the past 7 yrs. We discovered the Arch soon after they opened and amazingly, the staff haven’t changed much since!

The Melrose Arch arranged to pick us up from the city’s international airport, newly named O.R. TAMBO (in honour of Oliver Reginald Tambo, one of the founding fathers of the new South Africa). 

The hotel is in the mid-rise Melrose Arch district with multi-tier shopping centres full of an interesting variety of architectural details like curved walls, contemporary glass and a brand new piazza.

It’s important to feel secure when there are concerns about safety, muggings and car jacking occurring still each day. The whole area is patrolled and monitored by CCTV surveillance, so there are no lingering security issues - the changing face of Joburg is peace, prosperity and urban pulse…

On arrival at the Melrose Arch hotel, which is totally in keeping with the modern look of the retail surroundings, I actually recognised the same bell captain, baggage handler and concierge that I had seen two years ago on previous visits.

The management company, Protea Hotels do a great job running a friendly hotel and inspiring such loyalty in their staff. 

We appreciate but don’t always love living in super-modern spaces, but Melrose Arch has far too much design personality to ever be clinical or cold. The international sleekness of its high ceilings and accent details - like metal sconces and lowlit corridors flooded in pools of emerald and ruby light - are balanced by the warmth of exposed brick and glossy wooden paneling. 

But the real design coup is the massive courtyard gardens that add so much green space to the hotel: the memorable design has a witty, bold, slightly surrealist flair. At the POOL BAR aluminum tables and chairs sit in inches of water on the outdoor patios; topiary trees grow in hugely outsized metal “flowerpots”; four- poster day beds with billowing fabric in tomato red invite you to sink back into them and take in the peaceful scene, worlds away from the lively retail precinct flourishing outside.

This hotel complex is a world unto itself. I have strongly recommended it to numerous friends who are going to South Africa’s 2010 World Cup. Even though there are new hotels and construction sites springing up, the big chain hotels won’t have the charm and atmosphere of this polished personal hotel which has such a great, proven track record for us.

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We booked 2 STANDARD TWIN ROOMS. The next category up, which would normally be my preference, doesn’t provide interconnecting rooms. To accommodate families, the hotel has next-door standard twins at the end of each corridor that can then be closed off, with their own passageway.

I have always found the Melrose to be a great family destination and over the years have particularly enjoyed bringing my kids here. From the moment you make the booking, the hotel asks you the age of the child and starts to customise the experience accordingly by decorating the room. 

For our 8-year-old daughter, Zoe they created the dream girl’s bedroom, with candy pink doona covers, fairy dresses and treats waiting on the bed like toy electric guitars, chocolates and a tiara. These touches are enough to totally enchant a child - such a change from the corporate blandness of most city hotels.

We also loved the way that even the sophisticated adult décor has a certain whimsy: the oil painting of the plump opera singer over the bath, rubber ducks to liven up the bathroom, the painting that hinges open to reveal a safe, a jar of smarties to nibble on - as well as great design details that also elevate the room from the usual hotel standard. Gorgeous, glossy wood paneling, zebra and leopard print accents on the upholstery, beautiful timber flooring or black and white checked tile and the rawness of exposed brick all give the room distinctive character.

I complimented the excellent and amiable manager, Joe Segers on the way he runs this hotel. Melrose Arch doesn’t rest on its laurels!  They maintain the décor throughout the hotel, and put money back into the accommodation to keep it looking new. 

The accommodation at Melrose Arch is a fun, sophisticated environment that puts exceptional effort into welcoming your kids. Considering it’s prime position and excellent facilities it is also reasonably priced…

PRICE: $US 300 a room excluding breakfast (R2,050) 

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Melrose Arch Hotel| 1 Melrose Square, Melrose Arch , Johannesburg | + 27 (0)11 214 666 | View web site
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Another great option is THE MICHELANGELO. This hotel is brilliantly located on exclusive shopping mall, Nelson Mandela Square in SANDTON. White gloved doormen greet and usher you into the Grand Hotel atmosphere of Renaissance-inspired architecture with carved stone figurative statues, massive wrought-iron and glass doors,a cathedral height lobby with columns, potted palms and thick pile carpet. 

I have stayed at the hotel at least three times over the past 12 years, but drifted away to the Melrose Arch Hotel when I felt that the rooms were starting to age and get the slightly well worn, neglected look of too much traffic over too many years and little put back into the hotel to maintain its.

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Despite the impressive scale and architecture, it takes more than great bones to make a hotel… and the suites had become a letdown. The bedspreads were thin and dated looking, the carpet had seen better days. 

After the hi tech sleekness of flat screen TVs almost everywhere, it is almost shocking to the eye to see an old clunky black model sitting on a cabinet…as for the rest of the room - the décor was simply tired. 

The good news: with the huge influx of international travelers expected for the 2010 World Cup,…

 The Michelangelo are about to renovate every single room. A total refresh of colour palette, carpeting and entertainment features will elevate the hotel to once again being one of the best options in Johannesburg, worthy of its fantastic shopping location on Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton City

I look forward to seeing The Michelangelo at its brand new best again; if you beat me to it, send us some shots of your suite on our YOU SAID page! 


EXECUTIVE SUITE   US$ 718.00 - 924.00 PER PERSON         


(Prices vary Seasonally)

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The Michelangelo| Nelson Mandela Square, West Street, Sandown, Johannesburg | + 27 (0)11 282 7000 | View web site
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For those who love the hushed intimacy of small, ‘bijou’ style spaces the Saxon is a great third option. It’s Johannesburg’s ultimate boutique hotel: as close as you can get to staying in your own private residence. We always choose a more central location with shops and pedestrian squares at the doorstep when we pass through town. But the loyal Saxon clientele love to retreat to the upmarket tranquility and tree lined avenues of residential Sandhurst, with the nearest busy neighbourhood, Sandton a short drive away.

Another reason Sheira and I have stayed elsewhere is that we find it quite pricey. I have not been able to justify spending that kind of money in Johannesburg when there are less expensive options that really work for me.  But there are plenty of travelers who have developed a great affection for this chic little gem.

What makes the Saxon so unique is its ambience: the elegant ‘African minimalism’ of the décor combines a cream palette and the organic warmth of wood and stone with dramatic design details like a circular staircase and massive rustic wrought iron chandelier; African artefacts add the personality and ethnic flavour. The whole earthy effect is made even more soothing by the lush landscaped gardens with sprawling lawns that make it hard to believe you are in busy, sometimes gritty Johannesburg.

Travelers who have to come to depend on treats and wellness treatments with their hotel stay love The Saxon for its excellent SPA - with treatment gazebos and Signature Sound Therapy using gongs, cymbals, singing bowls and bells, which all adds to the magical, “secret Garden’ atmosphere.

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All of the 24 exclusive suites have charming picture bay windows and latticed shutters that look out over the rolling lawns or the pool area; no one misses out on the natural beauty of the grounds. Business travelers already love the amenities of a hi-tech wifi WORKSTATION but now The Saxon has caught World Cup renovation fever, adding 29 additional suites to bring the total number to 53 suites by May 2010.

The EGOLI SUITES are highly plush and luxurious, with a décor of warm neutral creams and caramels way above a standard suite - spacious enough for in-room dining, with extra touches like fine linens and an extra large wifi workspace. The 3 PRESIDENTIAL SUITES have the addition of private balconies and a “butler’s kitchen.” 


The stunning NELSON MANDELA PLATINUM SUITE is the epitome of the exciting, world class suite you save for the world’s highest flyers. It has its own steam room, Jacuzzi and industry level entertainment system - with private passages to each entrance to uphold celebrity discretion… 

PRICE: EGOLI SUITES   R 6 800.00  (US$ 878.00)

PRICE: PRESIDENTIAL SUITES R 13 700.00 (US$ 1771.00)


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The Saxon| 36 Saxon Road, Sandhurst, Johannesburg | + 27 (0)11 292 6000 | View web site
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